© Brenda-Joy Pritchard

Winner, 2022 The Cloncurry Prize — Bard of the Outback, Cloncurry, Queensland.

We’ve left behind the urban sprawl, traversed the rural lands
to reach the realm of emptiness the bushie understands,
and once again, in Nature’s space, we feel our spirits start
attuning with the rhythmic pulse of Outback’s beating heart.
The Smoke is but a distant blur, a past now left behind,
as each expansive vista brings a greater peace of mind...
the Mitchell grasses, emus running, eagles flying high,
the trackless landscape stretching out to endless cobalt sky.

We sight the gouged meander trail of dried-out, gum-lined creek
as rustic outcrops shelter mystic secrets that they keep.
The underlying gold and copper casts an ochre hue
on quartz-seamed, rich conglomerates.  The Curry comes in view!
It warms the heart to near the hub that was our life support
through all our years of station life, the decades that were fraught
with fire, with storms, with dust and flies in soul-destroying drought –
the ravages of climate’s wrath that ‘sorts the weaklings out’.

Thank God we’d had the radio to help allay our fears,
the legacy of Traegar’s team of network pioneers.
Thank God the Flying Doctor service helped us all to bear
our traumas and anxieties – those ‘angels of the air’!
The Flynn Place in Cloncurry pays its tribute to the man –
a visionary of his time, a hero who began
a legacy of medicos and pilots who deserve
each breath of thanks that’s given from the far-flung world they serve.

Through times when catastrophic flood depleted land and stock
then only town-based networks helped alleviate the shock.
The fledgling, fragile human links prevented deep despair
from constant trials when lack of rain left paddocks dust-bowl bare.
Then on the day when health and age and debt and lack of kin
meant giving up our station life, the townies took us in
providing hospitality in true blue Aussie style –
the helping hand, the open ear, the sun-lined friendly smile.

And in our new environment we came to understand
how those who lived in clusters shared our passion for the land.
Descendants forged of hardy stock, they played essential parts
towards the station way of life that had consumed our hearts.
Where distance is the nemesis, the outback’s crucial code
is selfless co-reliance aimed to ease each other’s load.
Co-operation’s needed for the region to survive
and services have grown and spread to keep the West alive.

It’s been a year since we departed from our town abode –
your need for surgical procedures forced us down that road,
but we were strangers in the city, lost within the throng
while aching for the open space where men like you belong.
For men like you share memories of musters in the dawn,
of campfire glow and star-filled nights where mate-ship ties are born,
that special bond with horses, years of caring for your stock –
the mutual respect that reminiscences unlock.

Frugality, simplicity, fulfilling basic needs
the sense of satisfaction long-enduring hardship breeds.
Necessity will mould a man to struggle, toil and strive
so men like you share values that have helped the west survive.
You followed through traditions built by outback pioneers,
by those intrepid souls who lived in formulative years,
the legendary characters who’d go to any length
to challenge the environment with grit and guts and strength.
In coming back we have returned to where ideals reside,
where history is honoured, where the deeds of men abide,
and here within the vast expanse that skirts our little town
immersed in blaze of colours as the sun is sinking down,
in awe-inspiring atmosphere, both reverent and grand
I consecrate your ashes cast to spirit of the land.
Here where the wind of freedom chants its everlasting song
with heroes who have gone before – you’re home where you belong.

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